Letter to the editor: Bristol selectboard shortsighted on pipeline actions

At the May 14 Bristol selectboard meeting I felt that the board was disrespectful to many who were in attendance and also showed itself to be shortsighted.
At that meeting the board’s first action was to change the order of the agenda. Instead of first talking about the previously proposed survey to collect people’s thoughts on the Vermont Gas pipeline, the board went ahead and voted to commit Bristol to the pipeline. Reversing the agenda and that vote essentially left many at the meeting surprised and feeling that the rug had been pulled out from under them! What was the point of a survey now? Did the board not want to know the wishes of the voters?
My personal view of the gas line installation is that it is shortsighted for our long-term goals. Why spend so much time, money, energy and disruption of the village for a possible pipe dream of a pipeline? What is the true cost of converting to natural gas? For the individual and the town? Nobody seems to have a clear number. Right now fracked gas is being sold at a loss. What will the price be once enough people are dependent on it, once the infrastructure is installed, once the demand from over seas increases and the fracked gas people decide to make a profit?
And what about the source of that fracked gas? Do we not have some obligation to let those facts influence our decision?
Can’t the town offer us something better? Some help with clean energy? I know there are some commercial opportunities for buying solar powered electricity on homes with no up-front cost for a similar price as today’s monthly electric bill for 12 years. After that you would own the panels and have no further electric bill for the remainder of the life of those panels. Or perhaps including an efficient heat pump with additional solar panels, and again, after a 12-year loan, you would own the heat pump to heat your home and the solar panels to power it.
Let us look into the future when trying to make decisions today about our energy needs. Don’t we want to put our energies toward that sustainable future? Fossil fuels are not the future. They are dirty and they are the past.
When thinking of this shortsightedness, I am reminded (with very much respect) of what the late Andrew Johnson of Bristol told me long ago. He told me that one regret he had was Bristol getting rid of its hotel. He said that it seemed like such a hardship for the town to keep it at the time but if they could have just held onto it for five more years the town (and himself included) could have seen what an incredible resource and asset it was.
A shift in thinking. What will be important five to 10 years down the line? Where do we want to put our energies now for our future and that of our children’s?
Peggy Chatelain

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